The Scribes: Which Is the First Commandment of All?
28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
But after that no one dared question Him.
One of the scribes was beginning to think for himself, as Nicodemus, a Pharisee, did when he came at night to speak to Jesus.
The scribe’s answer lines up with what the Father had to say about Israel placing too much value on ritual rather than obedience.
1 Samuel 15:22
22 So Samuel said:
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
There are days, brothers and sisters, where we go through the motions; our lips, and not our hearts, ‘honor’ Him. He does not inhabit that praise, because it isn’t really praise.
There are earthly experiences that bring us to the precipice of turning away, of cooling our love, silencing the call, and extinguishing the divine gifts.
What then, when taking up your cross, counting the cost, and following a Savior whose face is set like flint toward the glory of G-d seems almost foolish, if not worthless.
Yet Jesus tells us this for our excuses: (Luke 9:61-62)
61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”
62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
The fate of Lot’s wife dramatically illustrates this for us.
If we are not far from the Kingdom, and if we endure to the end we are saved, and if He is in the midst of our prayers for doing or seeking the Father’s will, and He goes to prepare a place for us, and we are sealed to salvation by the presence of the Holy Spirit, believing He will raise us with a great shout on the last day, we can believe Him when He says “Assuredly, I say to you…”
It is indeed a blessed assurance, a resting comfort, and a heavenly peace.
We are to abide in faith in a world of prophesied turmoil and evil, for it belongs to the prince of this world.
It is the reason a new earth will be created for us to dwell eternally in the Father’s light, spotless and blameless, in a world free from sin and evil. It is something to be feared and desired that we are counted worthy, not because we deserve it, but because He has grafted in those who are not His people through grace, and grace alone.
Though the Father’s wrath abides on the faithless and lawless, His love and mercy daily, and eternally, surround those of us who have placed and confessed our faith in the atoning work of His Son, our Lord and Savior.
And Jesus, given all authority to judge, forgive, and draw us into His Father’s presence, tells us that in doing the Father’s will, and keeping His commandments, we are not so very far from His Kingdom at all.
Therefore I pray:
Father in Heaven,
I am a base and unprofitable servant.
There are days my corruption, laziness, and sinful rebellion are paraded before Your holy eyes in defiance of Your rules for me to live a long, fruitful life, finishing the work You gave me to do.
There are days when I would be content to have the rocks sing my praise to You, even though it would grieve You.
There are days I set down my cross and indulge my flesh, telling myself I’ve done nothing wrong.
But neither have I drawn closer to You, even though I desire to return.
The Good Shepherd walks the path before me. In Him, You are pleased, and implore me to listen to Him. It is up to me to listen and to know His voice, which ministers Your purpose. I thank Him for coming to find me when I go astray. I thank Him for restoring me to the fold, under Your protection, and not leaving me to the outer darkness.
Thank You for sending Him to overcome Death and Hell for my soul’s sake; unworthy though it may be, You would not see it burned as chaff in the unquenchable fire set for those who hate You.
I’m humbled that my King thinks so highly of this unfruitful, unprofitable servant, who struggles to do even that which he is supposed to do. Though I have less time to walk in the Narrow Way, I thank You for the rewards to come, if there are any. If not, the Kingdom in and of itself is more than I deserve, however humble my place in it.
Such is Your love, Almighty G-d, that You would send Jesus to draw me near once more, and be with You, praising You and giving You all glory and honor, forever and forever.
May it be done to me as You have said.